A reader wrote in with a question about whether copyrights need to be renewed.
Hi, I'm attorney Gordon Firemark, and this is Asked and Answered, where I answer your entertainment law questions, to help you take your career and business to the next level.
I'll answer the renewal question, and explain how copyright duration works, in just a moment.
So, the question posted in the comments on my blog asked whether copyright registration needs to be renewed every year.
The quick answer is no. Modern Copyright law doesn't require (or permit) any renewal. Once the term of copyright protection expires, the work automatically falls into the public domain.
So, how long does copyright protection last?
Well, first let me explain when copyright protection BEGINS.
You see, when you create an original work of authorship… that is, original expression of ideas, and you fix or record that expression in some tangible form, so it can be reproduced and so forth… that work is automatically protected by copyright.
So… from the moment you set pen to paper, press record on the video camera or whatever, you own a copyright in what you've created.
And that copyright will protect your work for a good long time… 70 years, in fact, after you die. Here in the US, and in most other countries around the world, copyright duration is Life+70 years. There are some other countries where it's Life+50, but for most it's 70.
Works created as works made for hire, or anonymously or under a pen-name, are protected for 120 years total, from the date of creation, or 95 years from the first publication… whichever occurs first.
So that's the rule for works created today, and anything that was created after 1977. Works created before January 1, 1978 fell under several different schemes, and they had to be registered, and that registration DID have to be renewed, usually after the 28 years. But the duration of those copyrights is subject to a fairly complicated set of rules, so it's best if you’re dealing with questions about one of these works, you consult an entertainment or copyright lawyer who can help you out precisely when the works fall into the public domain.
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